Thursday kicks off the craziest shopping weekend of the year, when 140 million consumers are expected to line up for hot deals or risk shopper's elbow nabbing online bargains. The frenzy starts even earlier in 2013 with major retailers like Macy's and Bergner's joining big-box discount stores in opening Thanksgiving night. Whether you think that's holiday sacrilege or a family bonding opportunity, here are four mark-your-calendar shopping days:
Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28
Macy's, Bergner's, J.C. Penney and Kohl's are among the anchor stores opening their doors at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving in hopes of expanding the Black Friday shopping tradition.
Retailers saw the results last year, when Wal-Mart, Target and other big-box stores took the plunge and shoppers responded, said Peter Gill, spokesman for the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. A survey by the National Retail Federation found that 33 million people plan to shop on Thanksgiving this year.
Many smaller mall stores are joining in, including Old Navy and 75 others at Market Place Mall in Champaign.
"If you're not opening at 8 p.m., you're going to miss a big rush of customers," said Rhonda Lash, manager at the Champaign Macy's, which will have a DJ on hand until 11 p.m. Other perks: free carousel rides and Magic Snow Shows every half hour.
Friday, Nov. 29
Feel like an all-nighter? Most stores opening Thursday night will stay open through closing Friday. Others will open in the wee hours Friday, from 2 a.m. on. Black Friday has become one giant Black Thursday-Friday sale, said Robert Harrison, marketing/consumer expert at Western Michigan University.
But expect some craziness on Friday, Gill said. Not all stores are opening Thursday night, and most aren't open during the day on Thanksgiving (other than 24-hour retailers like Meijer and Wal-Mart Supercenters). Shoppers also have to make up for lost time, with just 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the fewest since 2002.
"It's still the anchor of the whole weekend," Gill said, with 97 million shoppers in Friday's forecast.
Among the deals: a 55-inch HDTV at Best Buy for $550 (regularly $1,000).
Saturday, Nov. 30
This is the fourth year for Small Business Saturday, created in 2010 to help small retailers ride the shopping wave between big-box Black Friday sales and Cyber Monday e-commerce.
Local stores plan specials throughout the weekend with a focus on Saturday, said Anna Ragle, owner of the new Fira women's boutique at 700 S. Gregory St., U, near Krannert Center for the Perfoming Arts. Small stores offer a more personalized shopping experience and "put their money right back into the community," she says.
Originally promoted by American Express, the movement has grown via social media.
"It's helping create an awareness," said Cynthia Johnson, executive director of the Urbana Business Association. "We certainly hear from a lot of our businesses that they get a boost on that day."
Monday, Dec. 2
More than 129 million consumers shopped online on Cyber Monday 2012, and more of the same is expected this year. But the e-commerce holiday is also spreading over the entire Thanksgiving weekend, with retailers offering discounts in advance and sites like http://www.bfads.net and http://blackfriday.gottadeal.com tracking the best deals. Amazon went online with its Black Friday specials Sunday.
The online portion of holiday sales for the Thanksgiving weekend grew from 23 percent in 2006 to about 40 percent last year, Gill said. That includes shoppers using mobile phones to find deals while at a store, or ordering online and picking up items in person.
Shop.org predicts online holiday sales will grow 13 to 15 percent this year, to as much as $82 billion. Retail sales overall are projected to be up 3.9 percent to $602 billion.
ON YOUR MARK, GET SET, SHOP!
Many stores will open at 8 p.m. Thursday and remain open until malls close Friday evening:
Market Place Mall, Champaign
-- Thursday: 8 p.m. to midnight (Macy's, Bergner's, J.C. Penney and 50+ stores).
-- Friday: Staggered openings from midnight to 10 a.m.; mall closes at 9 p.m.
-- Saturday: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
-- Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Village Mall, Danville
-- Thursday: Sears and Carsons open 8 p.m. through Friday evening; mall closed.
-- Friday: Dunham's and Hibbetts open at midnight, others at 6 a.m.; mall closes at 9 p.m.
-- Saturday: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
-- Sunday: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Eastland Mall, Bloomington
-- Thursday: 8 p.m. to midnight (most stores).
-- Friday: 12 a.m. (5 a.m. for remaining shops) to 10 p.m.
-- Saturday: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
-- Sunday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Hickory Point Mall, Decatur
-- Thursday: 8 p.m. to midnight (most anchors and other stores).
-- Friday: Staggered openings from 12 a.m. to 9 a.m.; mall closes at 10 p.m.
-- Saturday: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
-- Sunday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m
Tanger Outlets, Tuscola
-- Thursday: 10 p.m. to midnight.
-- Friday: 12 a.m. to 9 p.m.
-- Saturday: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
-- Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.